October 2016 – Trees for the small garden – Peter Jackson

An interesting talk from a very experienced speaker and a thoroughly nice man – the Scotsdale guru, Peter Jackson, came to talk to us about trees for the small garden. Why small gardens? It is a fact of life that large gardens are not now acceptable to the majority of potential home-owners. Just look around all the new estates springing up near Cambridge and you will see for yourself that small gardens are the order of the day. So, we must move with the times and accept that smaller trees will be flooding our garden centres for years to come.

In years gone by when Peter was learning his trade in Holland, horticulturalists in Great Britain had the edge on competitors with their exceptional knowledge of rootstock and how to graft. Unfortunately, in more recent years countries like Poland and Russia have streaked ahead. Never mind, our day will come again! In the meantime, have a look at the trees for sale in your local nursery. Labels are now much more informative and you can select the right sized tree for your garden with ease. The secret is to know all about rootstock. Rootstock is the part of the plant, often an underground part from which new above-ground growth can be produced. This is the secret as smaller trees can be produced by grafting cuttings from another plant onto the rootstock which is fooled into keeping the new arrival alive until the two parts become one! Still with me? So rootstocks can be selected for their different properties such as vigour (or lack of it), resistance to pests, fruit size and so on.

So – for example a label with the sign M27 means that the resulting tree will be very dwarfing, MM106 semi-dwarfing, M9 – dwarfing, M25 vigorous (what else with a name like that) and so on….. Mostly, but not exclusively, this information is used for fruit trees.

When growing fruit trees in pots choose containers with straight sides, plastic pots – are fine. Root prune every couple of years and replace the compost. There are fruit trees which you can step-over, train against a wall – cordons or just remain small. Get a self-fertile one so you do not have to worry about self-pollination. You will be spoiled for choice. What a lovely family Christmas present an apple tree would make!

If I gave you all the trees recommended by Peter, this article would stretch to pages and pages. So, the alternative is to advise you to decide whether you would like a fruit tree – apple, pear, mulberry – you name it – or a weeping tree like a larch or cherry but don’t forget to cut out the diseased leaves from below. How about a sorbus – the mountain ash – believed by Welsh people to keep the witches away ……. with berries, useful for Christmas wreathes.

Whatever you decide think before you buy – think rootstock and think final size!

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